At home, Chihaya sulks in a pile while her sister Chitose thinks about quitting acting and getting into a college, based on bad reviews she reads online. When they see the concert band struggling with tight accommodations Chihaya tells her Miyauchi to let them use the second floor for storage, as a gesture of solidarity with another school club. Chihaya’s mother takes her to the Oe’s store to buy her her own hakama for the coming nationals. Chihaya’s improved mood inspires Chitose to giving acting another try. The concert band plays an impromptu four-verse school anthem for the karuta club as thanks and to fire them up for the tournament. The eve of the nationals arrive and the club is at an inn, Sumire asks Chihaya who she likes; she calls Arata later, as Taichi looks on.
Chihayafuru’s second season is really hitting its stride. After a string of tournament episodes and the nationals coming up next week, this week stock was taken in both Chihaya’s character and the collective character of the karuta club. You’d think the last think you’d want to do on the eve of a national tournament is to allow a band to store instruments on the floor above you, especially while practicing a game that requires silence and concentration. However, Chihaya sees it as good for karma, and one thing they didn’t have in the regionals was luck. We love her arc in this episode. She is so extremely down in the dumps, she affects both her sister and mother, motivating them to action in response of what they’re witnessing.
Her mom, a little guilty about ignoring her for so long, buys her a hakama (and Kana’s mom hooked her up with a boss payment plan!), which really helps lift her spirits, which then lift Chitose’s when she sees her nutty karuta freak of a little sister isn’t giving up. Sumire’s upfront question also seemed to get Chihaya thinking for the first time (maybe…a little) about who exactly Arata is to her. Sumire obviously wasn’t trying to manipulate Chihaya into calling Arata so it Taichi could watch and get upset about it (she’s not that diabolical), that was the result of her questioning. But she’s not giving up on Taichi, and this trip is a good way to take action on that front, if she so desires.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
P.S. Great little comic moments we wanted to mention: Oe breaking the fourth wall – adorably – when Chihaya asks about the show’s title; and Miyauchi having zero patience for Sumire’s horny preening.
Mizuha informs Akane that her grades are dropping as a result of her busy schedule. Aoi, Wakaba and Himawari organize a Saturday study group at her house. They each invite Rei, who turns them all down, but comes anyway when she learns who Akane’s grandfather is. Unable to take any more “niceness”, Rei leaves, just before a new Alone alert goes off. The girls defeat the Alone easily, but Rei manages to shoot an arrow into a fragment, causing it to regenerate and attack an off-guard Akane. Her Vivid suit overloads and she starts to fall from the sky.
We were a little shocked when we found out Rei didn’t know Akane was the granddaughter of Isshiki Kenjirou. If the name wasn’t a giveaway, the giant satellite dish behind Akane’s house should have. At any rate, this episode starts off with the girls trying to become friends with Rei, not understanding she puts her wish to bring back her parents above everything, including friendship and her own happiness, and with only six feathers left on her tattoo, finally manages to make a dent in the Vivid system, knocking Akane out of the sky and grabbing victory out of the ashes of defeat.
We liked the new alone that generates a continuous EMP that makes electronics go haywire, and it seems a little easy that the girls’ suits are immune to it, and is more evidence the Vivid system is more magic than science. But that’s really okay, because they don’t end up getting home in time for Momo’s delicious home-cooked supper. For once, Kuroki Rei seems to have the advantage, and we’re not sure how the girls are going to get out of this mayo-topped pickle. Catching Akane before she hits the ground would be a start.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
P.S. Rei finding Kenjirou’s human body in the fridge is a great moment of quasi-horror.
Masuzu still isn’t convinced Ai has a boyfriend, so when the opportunity presents itself, she orders Eita to go on a double movie date, in which Chiwa will be Kaoru’s date. Chiwa gets upset with Eita and Ai getting so close and tries to sabotage the mission. They then end up projecting their quarrel upon the two main characters in the film. When it’s over and Eita asks Ai what was going on, she tells him it was nothing.
I wasn’t sure I needed another episode of Fuyuumi Ai’s utterly ineffectual attempts to court Eita. She basically needs Kaoru there at all times to stay on point, and even then, she’s so committed to maintaining her lie about ‘Michel’, she totally undermines any gains she hopes to make with Eita, who’s decided to be a bit thick and not pick up on her body language and behavior as signs she’s into him. The thing is, with sufficient patience and time, both will eventually come around. The only problem this week at least, is Chiwa’s presence.
Aside from it being impossible to snap incriminating pictures in a dark theater, Masuzu badly miscalculated by involving Chiwa. Not that she or Hime would be any better in that role (they wouldn’t). Of course, none of this investigation would be necessary if Ai simply owned up to not having any boyfriend. Now, though, it should be clear to both Chiwa and Masuzu: they have a new rival. She’s currently inept and Eita is still oblivious, but it won’t stay that way forever. At least, we hope it won’t; things need to keep moving.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
P.S. Poor Kaoru…he’s somehow a fifth wheel amongst only four people. Chiwa totally ignores him. We really wish he had the backbone to set Ai straight.
With Maou away to renew her license, Yuusha tries to use Maid Ane to fill in for her, using the magic ring. However, the young merchant isn’t fooled. Yuusha takes him to Gate City, demonstrates its value, and offers to sell it to him in exchange for showing him something that “cannot be expressed in loss and gain.” Onna-kishi wants Yuusha to officially knight her, and he assents. A messenger from the Holy Capital informs the Winter King the Crimson Scholar (Maou) has been branded a heretic and must be arrested. The King goes to Yuusha, who will give the church Ane, disguised as the Scholar, then rescue her later.
Kings and Politicians are just another kind of merchant: peddling influence and resources. But they are driven by a desire for power, total victory, and the destruction of their foes. But true merchants understand there can be no business if there’s no one to do business with. Thus, every gain comes with a loss, and a balance is maintained. This is what Maou and Yuusha want: not for the demons or humans to defeat and rule over the other; but peaceful coexistence. This is already happening in Gate City, which Yuusha shows to the merchant to prove it’s not just a pipe dream.
The soldiers are gone, but the merchants remain, and they dont’ care if their business partners are demon or human. The city is offered to the merchant in exchange for his help in finding that elusive place beyond loss and gain they’re searching for. Onna-Kishi also moves forward: even if Yuusha will never be hers, she wants to be his; their quiet little knighting scene is wonderfully presented. This is just when her former charge, the church, has made a move against Maou. Were she in the human world, she’d probably let herself get arrested as part of a scheme. But she’s indisposed, so the hero must improvise.
Rating: 8 (Great)
Hakaze meets with Yamamoto and Hayekawa and tells them Hanemura won’t reach his full strength unless the Tree of Exodus absorbs one final fruit that must be raised. Yamamoto shares with her the theory that the tree(s) are an extraterrestrial weapon designed to head off rival civilizations on other worlds. Yoshino and Mahiro wander around, finally meeting by chance at the graveyard. Yoshino admits that he is Aika’s boyfriend, but Mahiro is surprisingly calm about it. They return to the apartment together, and the next day Hakaze announces she’ll be returning to the past, to a time when Aika was still alive.
We actually really enjoyed how Mahiro took the truth about Aika’s boyfriend. It was certainly a big moment, and a possible turning point for the show, but it was handled with a surprisingly light touch. Yes, there’s the Hamlet-like meetup at the graveyard at dusk; the graveyard; the stare-down…but Mahiro had time to think about things, and once the most logical choice came to light (thanks to Hanemura earlier), when Yoshino finally told him, he’s not that upset about it. It could have been worse; she could have been with some random dick. Yoshino he knows to be a kind and decent guy. That said, having the truth revealed doesn’t release him of the pain of losing the woman it turned out he always loved and continues to love.
Mahiro can’t fault Yoshino for hiding the relationship – and his grief – even after Aika died, because he did the exact same thing: hold it all inside and let it stew. However, Yoshino wants a Tempest ending, a Hamlet ending will do for Mahiro. They may yet become enemies; just not over Yoshino dating Aika. We enjoyed how everyone around these two was prepared for Mahiro to lose it, and their shock when he doesn’t. We also like how neutral parties like Yamamoto and Hanemura talk about their nagging doubt. And since the mystery of who killed Aika remains, Hakaze is going to the past to find out firsthand, which could be interesting, as she’ll essentially be time-stalking Aika and Yoshino of that time…
Rating: 9 (Superior)
Shisei tries to rally the townsfolk to fight back, but explosives beneath them are set off and queerats attack from underground. He holds them at bay, but when the fiend enters the town, his attention is divided. Saki and Satoru flee to the Temple of Purity, where a gift from Saki’s parents is waiting for her. But first, she and Satoru meet with Inui, whose unit was killed by the fiend, who was accompanied by queerats. Saki learns Yakomaru used Maria and Mamoru to conceive a fiend, the first in an army he will ultimately use to conquer the world.
Throughout the run of this excellent series, we have heard the narration of an old Saki, and what we are watching are her reminiscences The end has already been written, she just hasn’t shared it with us. But her presence above the story gets us thinking: what are her present circumstances? Is she on her deathbed, as we saw Tomiko last week? Is she in some kind of purgatory or afterlife, with ample time to tell the story of her life? Is she the last human alive who isn’t a fiend made by Yakomaru by foul craft? Part of us is immensely curious about her, because things are going so far downhill, she risks backing herself into an impossible corner.
It’s bad enough there’s a fiend on the loose, and it is somehow being controlled by the queerats as their secret weapon (akin to a nuke, really). But far more twisted is that this is unquestionably (judging by the hair and eyes) a child of Saki’s friends. We shudder to think whether they had a say in matters or not, but we wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. As for Yakomaru’s plan to steal infants and use them as material to breed domesticated fiends – well, it’s despicable beyond belief, but in his belief (and that of his loyal soldiers), it’s an eye for an eye.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
With Tsurugi trapped in the underworld, Tama tends to an injured Kagami. Back at the ruins of the Tsukuyomi complex, Sasami’s mother gives her drugged daughter one last chance to return to being a Tsukuyomi princess. Sasami refuses, so her mother drugs her further to make her little more than a tool to impregnate with a Tsukuyomi priest she’s procured, in order to bear a new princess to fulfill her duty. Kagami gains consciousness long enough to heave Tsurugi’s devine sword all the way to Kamiomi, who uses it to escape from the mother’s captivity and free Sasami. The mother confronts them, but Tama arrives and take several bites out of her. A portal to the underworld opens, and Tsurugi drags Sasami’s mom in with her.
Once again this episode does a superb job subverting all of our expectations. What were we expecting? For starters, we thought we’d see Tsurugi struggling through the underworld, as depicted in a psychedelic style Shaft is no stranger to. She’d come out stronger than ever, face off against Sasami’s mom, and send her back where she belongs. But Tsurugi hardly does anything this week, and we barely see her. Most of the gruntwork of saving Sasami is left to the grade schooler with the grown-up body, Tama. In the process, we get a bit of backstory about how Tsurugi wasn’t always the perfect older sister, and times were tough for both Tama and Kagami, as could be suspected of new and reformed gods.
The episode’s climax also involves Sasami herself performing a binding spell on her mother that was taught to her by that same mother long ago, as depicted in a flashback in the cold open. There, we see a little more of the mom she remembers, rarely smiling but always kind and curious and loving, like the mother she was pretending to be last week. And for all her twisted methods (drugging and promoting rape), she is utterly convinced all she does is for Sasami’s and the world’s own good. But she’s not Sasami’s mother anymore; she died, and the kindess died with her. The bloodstained plushie Tsurugi overnights to Sasami from the underworld is a symbol of that loss and a memento of that ordeal.
Rating: 9 (Superior)